With much of the expected fanfare, Apple introduced its next iPhone: the 4S. The iPhone 4S is a world phone with both GSM and CDMA capabilities, but it’s not a 4G phone. However, that probably doesn’t matter. With its usual acuity, the Apple iPhone 4S rollout concentrated on what the phone can do well—and that’s a lot. Apple has wisely beefed up and emphasized the phone’s internal capabilities and barely mentioned the phone’s speeds and feeds or it’s processor (an Apple-designed dual-core A5 processor first used in the iPad 2, only faster).
Here are some of the emphasized abilities that caught my eye:
An 8-Mpixel camera with a 5-element lens. The emphasis is on image quality and vibrancy. Small camera sensors in mobile phone handsets tend to have poor low-light capabilities and a lot of noise. Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller emphasized that the iPhone 4S employs a backside-illuminated 8Mpixel (up from 5Mpixel) 3264×2448 CMOS image sensor for improved low-light sensitivity: 73% better. It uses a “better” lens (one more element than the lens used in the iPhone 4). He also highlighted the iPhone 4S’ ability to employ face detection to sharpen photos with more intelligent focusing algorithms and suggested that the iPhone 4S had superior automatic white-balance abilities and delivered better color vibrancy and truer color rendering than competing phones.
These are all capabilities that are added through the ability of the dual-core A5 processor with an integrated image-signal processor to perform more processing per photo, faster. One of the hallmarks of the camera in the iPhone 4S is its ability to shoot the first image in one second—about twice as fast as the competition—and to shoot subsequent images at half-second intervals. Perhaps this really is an important ability. Perhaps not. But it is part of the Apple magic that it seems important when someone from Apple speaks it.
It’s important to note that Apple says it set its sights on taking better images than point-and-shoot cameras, not other mobile phone handsets. Aim high, look better, take market share.
1080p HD video. Apple says that the iPhone 4S might be the first and only camcorder a person has. The camera sensor has ample resolution for video, so the iPhone 4S shoots 1080p HD video with real-time image stabilization and noise reduction. Again, a fast processor gets you the raw abilities to perform this level of real-time video processing, but the presentation focused on what you can do, not how the phone does it.
Siri—formerly the computer on Star Trek. Finally there’s Siri, a voice-driven digital assistant based on software Apple got through its acquisition of Siri, a software vendor. The demo of Siri was quite impressive. In the highly controlled demo, Siri proved to be the equal of the voice-driven main computer in the 1960s TV series Star Trek. The only discernable difference is that Captain Kirk got his computer’s attention by saying “Computer” and you get Siri’s attention by holding down a button for two seconds. Other than that, Siri’s pretty impressive. More processing power required here too.
There are lots more really interesting features. Too many to cover here.
All of this is to say that Apple is really distancing itself from its competition using the processing abilities inherent in multicore processing. However, it’s not emphasizing GHz and Gbytes or even what type of processor is under the hood of the A5 chip. In this iPhone 4S rollout, the company’s wisely emphasizing the benefits of the apps that can run on this system. True genius.